Nissan exec: Tesla crash major setback for autonomous tech

Time 3:40 pm, July 15, 2016

A NISSAN executive has admitted the Tesla autonomous driving crashes have been a major setback for the technology – but he confirmed the manufacturer will still be forging ahead with rolling out its own self-driving cars.

Tesla has been forced to defend its autopilot function following a fatal crash in the US in which an owner died when his Model S hit a tractor trailer at 65mph with the autopilot system engaged.

Tesla has said its system is safe ‘when used properly’ but reminded owners that they must be ready to intervene at ‘a moment’s notice’.

The timing couldn’t have been worse for Nissan which launched its own driverless technology in Japan this week. The manufacturer will roll out the tech in the UK on top-of-the-range Qashqais next year.

‘It’s our responsibility to give our customers confidence in the technology,’ said vice president of product planning, Ponz Pandikuthira.

Nissan was also quick to explain its ‘ProPilot’ system – which can drive cars on single lane highways up to 62mph autonomously, and assist in stop-start traffic – is a ‘driver aid, not self driving’.

‘Customers will make up their own mind on autonomy and I think we will be surprised by the take up in the next four years,’ said Pandikuthira.

‘Every time there is a problem, though, the press will react negatively. We want our technology to be ready and for consumers to accept it bit by bit. That’s why we’re introducing it in stages over the next few years.’

In 2018, Nissan’s cars will be able to tackle multilane motorways, helping the driver overtake, and then by 2020 it plans to sell fully autonomous cars.

But for autonomy to be a total success, Pandikuthira believes it will take car manufacturers being forced to work together to perfect an industry standard. He said cars will need to be able to ‘talk’ to each other, but that’s a step makers have yet to make.

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James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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